You’ve probably seen it on Instagram photos. Or you may have heard of it in a Youtube video. Maybe you even saw one in your friend’s garden. Either way, Zanzibar Gem is one of those plants everyone has but few people know why.
There are many reasons for the ZZ plant (as it’s also called) to be so popular. But the main reason is how sturdy it is. Among tropical plants, the Zanzibar withstands almost any environment. And more importantly, it requires little to no care to thrive.
For that reason, the Zanzibar Gem has become a go-to option for most people. Especially those who want an attractive yet care-free plant at home – they find it an almost perfect choice.
Here, we’re going to explain all about it: from how to grow it, what it stands out for, and even how to make it last. Care to find out? Then keep reading!
What is a Zanzibar Gem?
First and foremost, what is it exactly? Well, it is obviously a plant. But not any plant. Its scientific name is Zamioculcas zamiifolia. And according to records, it is originally from Africa (some of the driest places). Believe it or not, this was an Africa-only plant until a few decades ago.
It wasn’t until the 90s where Dutch nurseries in South Africa saw how fast the plant propagated and how resistant it was to harsh conditions. They decided to present it to the world. A few decades later, and the ZZ Plant has conquered the globe (even the internet).
The plant stands out for a waxy set of leaves, which are also smooth and dark green. It doesn’t attract pests. Thrives in low-light areas. And typically grows slowly. What’s even better, it doesn’t grow larger than 3 feet.
As you may guess, it is an almost flawless plant for indoor growing. As a decorative choice, it checks every box.
Other names for the Zanzibar Gem include Aroid Palm, The Answer Tree, Emerald Palm, Zuzu Plant, Eternity Plant, and ZZ Plant.
How Many Varieties of ZZ Plants Are There?
Apart from the one we describe above (standard Zanzibar), you may find two other varieties. These are:
Also called the black raven, this one is a lot darker than the typical Zanzibar. With little light, it looks dark brown to purple, almost black. It doesn’t need constant light exposure to achieve such a dark color.
Variegation means the plant has different colors at once. The Zanzibar with variegation boasts yellow, dark green, and white leaves. It may lose variegation without proper light exposure.
Why Grow a Zuzu Plant?
If looks alone don’t make it for you, there are many reasons to still get a Zanzibar Gem. These include:
Withstands Any Environment
The Zanzibar was supposedly originated in Eastern Africa. Because this is mostly a rocky and arid area of the continent, the plant developed the ability to thrive under challenging conditions.
That’s why the Zamioculcas Zamiifolia can grow in dry areas with low light and even temperatures as low as 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you live in places where environments change harshly or where conditions are often extreme, then you may find this plant a perfect choice.
Thrives Alone & Indoors
Most ZZ Plants demand little care. That means you can leave it alone for weeks on end without any adverse effect.
It is even safe to say that Zanzibar thrives when you leave it alone. Without fertilizer, water, or even light exposure – the plant keeps growing either way.
If you’re a care-free person who doesn’t have time to nurse a plant – then you’ll love a Zanzibar Gem (it won’t die on you).
Even though the plant is mostly decorative, there’s a lot of evidence of it absorbing contaminants in the air.
It can remove compounds like toluene, benzene, xylene, and ethylbenzene from the air. While one Zanzibar Gem is not precisely a purifier, you can literally make one with several of these plants together.
You won’t make your house, office, or workspace clean with one of these. But it’s certainly a feature worth mentioning.
Are ZZ Plants Poisonous?
Yes and no. Zanzibar Gems are actually mildly toxic. They have unique toxins, just like other plants from the Araceae family. These toxins are a bit poisonous. Every part of the plant has these toxins, so ingesting them can be dangerous for humans and pets.
However, the plant is nothing extraordinary. In the 2010s, the plant was under the spotlight for supposedly causing cancer. While this was proved wrong, the toxins may cause irritation in the skin and stomach aches if ingested. Apart from that, it is pretty much safe.
How to Grow ZZ Plants
Now that you have a clearer idea of what the plant is all about, it’s time to learn how to grow it at home. That’s probably why you’re here in the first place.
Without much further ado, here’s what to know about growing Zanzibar Gems:
Space & Repotting
Because ZZ plants are small and grow slowly, you don’t need a large pot at first. However, it will probably need a replacement after a year or two when the roots start to wrap around the container. In that case, you’ll have to repot it.
If necessary, make sure to have a sufficiently large pot where it can grow without any repotting. While it is resistant enough to withstand repotting, it is better to prevent it in the first place.
Light & Air
You don’t need to place the Zanzibar Gem in a particular area. As long as it receives decent sun exposure (a couple of hours a day) and sufficient air, the plant will thrive.
In fact, you can even leave it without any sun exposure or air and it will still grow. However, brightness is essential to keep its colors vibrant. Too much sun may scorch the leaves, though, so be careful.
Soil & Fertilizer
You can grow a Zuzu plant in almost any soil. Despite that, it is always better to find well-drained and nutritious soil. A combination of compost with sand or perlite may get the job done for the plant.
If you want fast growth (10 inches per year) and excellent health (no pest or disease), then you may always fertilize the Zanzibar Gem once a month. An indoor fertilizer may get the job done.
Water & Hydration
As a drought-resistant tropical plant, the Zanzibar doesn’t need you to water it consistently. In fact, you can skip several days and it will still survive (thrive even).
This happens because ZZ plants have rhizomes, roots that not only absorb but also store water. Instead of consuming the water at once, the roots are always humid to maintain consistent nutrient delivery.
That’s why you should only water the plant when the soil dries up. If you water too much, you may cause root rot and other problems.
Temperature & Humidity
As an indoor-friendly plant, you won’t have to ensure particular conditions. The ZZ plant will thrive even with temperatures as low as 45-degrees Fahrenheit. And it can reach extra-high temps without faltering.
Still, the recommended temperatures are between 59 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. With humidity, you don’t need to do much either. Just consider getting a humidifier if the humidity is too low (and you see the plant getting dry). Otherwise, it will probably survive either way.
Pests & Diseases
You won’t have to worry much about the Zanzibar Gem growing pests or getting sick. As a super-sturdy plant, it rarely needs any pesticide or disease prevention.
How to Take Care of ZZ Plants?
You won’t only need to keep the plant growing. Preferably, you’ll want it thriving with the right care. And for that, you will have to do the following:
As a low-care plant, pruning is almost unnecessary. It shapes itself consistently, and it grows only upwards, not getting too dense even after years of growth.
But you will still need to cut away dead leaves from time to time. Dry parts are also worth taking out. Use a sharp and clean pair of shears for this.
It is worth mentioning that ZZ plants don’t grow further when you prune them. So this is only a maintenance activity.
One of the few problems you’ll face with the Zanzibar Gem as an indoor plant is dust and dirt. Because it thrives just like any piece of furniture or decoration, it is likely to get covered in dust from time to time. When this happens, the leaves’ pores may get stuck, and the plant will stop breathing.
To prevent that, you must clean it with a damp cloth at least once every two weeks. Don’t use harsh chemicals (leaf shine, for example) for cleaning, only water. Otherwise, you may damage the plant.
If you want to keep the Zuzu plant thriving over the years, it is a great idea to repot it every two or three years. With renewed and fertilized soil, the plant is more likely to keep growing. When indoors, where the plant grows slowly, repotting can be immensely helpful.
How to Propagate Zanzibar Gems?
As you know now, the ZZ plant is a highly resistant plant that requires no special treatment. And this includes propagation.
If you want to grow a new Zanzibar Gem, you can always do so by just cutting a stem or even taking part in the plant away. Both the original plant and the new stem will likely survive.
But it is not a straightforward process as we make it seem. Because of that, we’ve arranged a brief guide on how to propagate a Zanzibar Gem in 5 steps:
1. Pick the Ideal Stem or Rhizome
Start by deciding whether you want to grow the plant from a stem or directly from the rhizome (root).
If you’re going for a stem, then you can simply cut it out. Make sure the portion of the stem has at least two leaves coming out of it. Cut the stems with clean shears. It should be from the base, as close to the root as possible.
In case you decide to plant from the rhizome, you can simply separate the root in half. Then pick one of the halves to replant.
2. Let Dry & Water
As soon as you cut the stem or rhizome out from the main plant, then you need to leave it to dry for a few hours.
The stalks will dry, making sure no disease can happen when you replant them. Then place in water. This will make the stem or root grow further before planting.
3. Repot the Plant
After drying and letting it soak, you’re ready to repot the plant. Whether it is from the stem or root, you will need nicely fertilized potting soil in a decently large pot. We recommend at least 6 inches in diameter.
4. Leave it Under Sunlight
Now you need to leave the plant to grow by itself. But because you’re growing from a stem or rhizome, it will need more sunlight than average to recover. However, direct sun exposure may also cause damage.
That’s why we recommend leaving the plant in a bright place with enough ventilation. The roots will start forming and propagate within 2 to 4 weeks.
5. Hydrate Consistently
To make sure the propagation is successful, you should keep the soil mildly moist. For that, water at least thrice a week in humid areas. If you live in a dry place, then try watering five times a week at least.
The plant could take anywhere from 3 months up to 5 months to start growing again. When it does, then you’ve successfully propagated a Zanzibar Gem.
Zanzibar Gem Problems You May Experience
Even though the ZZ plant is super-resilient, it may still get sick if you aren’t careful. Here are some of these problems you may experience:
When the leaves lose their green intensity and instead become light and yellowish, that’s a sign of overwatering as well.
This is one of the first signs of overwatering, so there’s not much to worry about. But after several weeks this way, problems may scale to the point of no return.
If you notice leaves getting yellow, then you should stop watering thoroughly. Instead, water only every two weeks for a month or two until the yellow goes away.
Stem & Rhizome Rot
If left untreated, yellow leaves caused by overwatering may end up in rot and fungal infections. For the Zanzibar Gem, this affects the stem and the rhizomes directly.
This often happens by watering every day. Because the rhizomes are typically humid even with little water, you may easily cause rot if you water more than necessary.
In case the moisture is too high in the rhizomes where they show signs of infections or rot, you may need to repot into new and dry soil. This may not fix the problem but may give a longer lifespan to the plant and higher chances of recovery.
Dry Leaves & Stems
Another common issue with Zuzu plants happens when the leaves start to dry out. Here, you will notice how the leaves and stems become brown. This is a common sign of lack of humidity.
Like any other plant, it is essential to keep the plant with enough water. We recommend watering at least once a week to prevent this from happening.
If you live in a dry and hot place, try augmenting the moisture by humidifying or misting the environment.
So, did you learn about the exceptional features of the Zanzibar Gem? This guide is complete with everything you need to know about it. Whether you want to plant it, gift it to a loved one, or simply add it up to your garden – then there’s nothing more to know.
Use our advice and recommendations above and you shouldn’t have any problem with this species. If you liked it – don’t hesitate and share it!